Good for you! You got that job interview! But, watch it, your body can lose the job for you within the first few minutes.
Don’t fight it. Accept it.
You’re being watched as much as you are being heard in the interview process. Why? Because you’re not being interviewed for your skills, qualities and brain power alone. Hiring managers need to know how you will interact with the existing team, how you will appear in meetings or in front of customers, AND how you will interact with them if they hire you!
The evaluation of your body language will start as soon as you walk into the company’s lobby and continue until the interview is finished. If your non-verbal communication skills aren’t up to par, it won’t matter how well you answer the questions. I’ve been interviewing, hiring, coaching and observing thousands of candidates for more than 30 years in sales and marketing, and I’ve identified 5 winning non-verbal actions:
1. Be happy: Hiring managers want to hire happy people. Only say positive things, even if you have had a less-than-positive experience in the past. Keep your emotions to yourself and do not show anger or frown. Smile!
2. Be present: Sit up, give a solid handshake, and make eye contact. Leaning back in your seat with your legs crossed at the knee sends a message you are too relaxed for an interview setting.
3. Be energetic: Lean forward a little towards the interviewer so you appear interested and engaged. On the other hand, keep your feet on the floor and your lower back against the back of the chair so you don’t look like you are lunging forward. Feel free to use hand gestures. My favorite is the 1-2-3. As you are giving three short answers to a question, make the 1-2-3 with your fingers as you are talking. After the 3 points, pause and smile.
4. Listen Attentively. When you sit down, put your portfolio on their desk to take notes, yet don’t take up too much of their space. Open up to a blank page with a pen ready. Don’t interrupt. Ever. Let them finish their full thought then pause another few seconds. Don’t jump on their last word with your message. If you don’t understand something, ask “can you re-phrase that, please?” Oh, in case it’s not clear, ALWAYS take notes.
5. Be calm: Yeah, right. You’re as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs and you need to relax? Try. Breathe. Smile. Not sure what to do with your hands? Hold a pen and your notepad or rest an arm on the chair or on your lap so you look comfortable. Keep your voice at a strong-yet-moderate level. I remember interviews where I’ve wanted to find the candidate’s “volume knob” to turn it down!
How can you be energetic and calm at the same time? How do you make great eye contact without creeping them out? Is your handshake weak or bruising their joints?
Practice your non-verbal skills in a mock interview with someone who will be direct with you. Interviews are your opportunity to shine and you should be well rehearsed, both what you will say and what your body language delivers.
Got a specific challenge? Let me give you a hand; I’m ready to help!